Preparations are underway for a campaign to drill test prospective kaolin targets at iTech Minerals’ (ASX: ITM) kaolin-rare earth elements (REE) prospects along South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula.
Access has been granted by local landowners and a drill rig has been secured to commence work next month across the Caralue Bluff, Ethiopia, Burtons (formerly Salt Creek) and Bartels prospects.
More than 370 holes will be drilled over six weeks at an average depth of between 15m and 30m each, targeting kaolin (kaolin-halloysite and high purity alumina) and kaolin-IAC (ion adsorption clay)-REE mineralisation.
iTech has identified a zone of REE mineralisation in a weathered, clay-rich horizon at the Bartels prospect, which sits in the southernmost part of the tenement package.
In 2012, Archer Materials (ASX: AXE) drilled three reverse circulation holes targeting strike extensions to gold in epithermal systems.
One of the holes intersected REE mineralisation, with highlights of 21m at 2,298 parts per million total rare earth oxides (TREO) from up to 76m, including 9m at 3,054ppm from 55-56m and 7m at 2,626ppm from 69-76m.
iTech plans to drill another 50 holes during its February campaign to further test the prospect.
Approximately 65 holes will be drilled across the Ethiopia target after iTech previously identified extensive enrichment of REE in kaolinitic clays.
Infill drilling will focus on extending the high-grade mineralisation at the end of one of the earlier holes which intersected 32m at 1,633ppm TREO.
iTech identified significant REE mineralisation in the clay-rich, weathering profile at Burtons comprising approximately 23% neodymium and praesidium, which are critical to the production of permanent magnets used in the electric vehicles and renewable energy industries.
They were also reported to display approximately 39% heavy rare earth element oxides (HREO), which can command a premium market price.
A review of Archer’s historical drilling data identified intervals of up to 32m REE-rich, clay-dominant material, over a 1km area in a north-south direction.
Of 19 historic holes, 15 had high levels of REE consistent with IAC-style mineralisation and thick intervals of clay-rich material near surface with high levels of TREO.
Representative samples have been sent for analysis to give an indication of expected recoveries and to determine if ionic adsorption plays a significant role in the REE mineralisation style.
iTech plans to drill 64 holes at Burtons to test the full extent of the clay-hosted mineralisation.
Caralue Bluff has a bright white kaolin content confirmed in drilling at less than 10m depth and up to 17m thick in two holes spaced 5km apart.
Historic analyses of the bulk raw clay from one hole recorded 70% kaolinite content with 0.55% ferric oxide and 87% raw brightness.
iTech said these values make it well-suited to high purity alumina feedstock, paper coating and filler applications.
The company plans to drill 194 holes at Caralue Bluff over an area of 12 square kilometres.